After months of delays, The Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment began hearing engineering testimony in the Stop & Shop application on Monday night, but after just one witness, ran out of time and continued the hearing until June 4.
The physical site engineer, Michael Fowler, explained how the driveways onto Millburn Avenue would work and how the development of the 69,000-square-foot grocery store proposed for the empty Saks Fifth Avenue building might impact the street.
Fowler said the county has already approved the widening of Millburn Avenue to accommodate a light at Millburn Avenue and Baltusrol Way to allow for a left turn lane into and out of the parking lot and onto Baltusrol Way.
The other driveway on Millburn Avenue would be for delivery trucks only and would not allow for an right turn exit out of the property because that would put trucks headed in the direction of downtown Millburn.
However, if the loading dock area is full, no trucks would be allowed in, and lawyers for ShopRite, who oppose the construction of the Stop & Shop, suggested that trucks would then be sent traveling eastbound into downtown.
Millburn is only involved in this project because of a 20-foot strip of land that includes the right-of-way for the driveways. And because the two driveways would empty out onto Millburn Avenue, residents are concerned about what that would mean for safety, as well as their quality of life.
Millburn & Springfield Residents for Traffic Safety oppose the supermarket because they think the traffic would impact the township in the following ways: delay emergency vehicles and pose a risk to pedestrians, many of whom are students at St. Rose of Lima Academy and Millburn High School.
They also worry about noise and the hassles that go with that much increased traffic.
The project has already been approved by Springfield and the accompanying roadwork and site plans have been approved by Essex County and the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Morris Avenue, where the store’s other driveway would connect. Gail Price, the lawyer for Stop & Shop, has said she does not think Millburn has jurisdiction in this case and she should not have to be going through these hearings in Millburn.
But Gail Fraser, the Zoning Board of Adjustment attorney disagrees.
“The board has jurisdiction over the 20-fot strip of land in Millburn,” she said. “That physical location of this strip of land gives this board jurisdiction.”
It is also that 20-foot strip of land that is holding up the project. It will include a sidewalk that goes all the way to the curb and landscaping that will call for the removal of six trees and the addition 12 different trees. The strip of land was given to Millburn in land deal with Springfield that shifted the boundary line by 20 feet back in 1957.
“If that boundary shift hadn’t occurred, we wouldn’t even be here,” Price said.
The case has been going on for 16 years, first with resistance and a court battle in Springfield and now in Millburn. Meanwhile the store sits empty and some nearby business owners would like to see something go in that would bring people to area.
The June 4 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. , and the public will get a chance to question the engineer.